Driver charged in triple fatal Willmar crash posts $50K bail

Driver charged in triple fatal Willmar crash posts $50K bail

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Withhis family reaching out to the victims and 50 letters vouching for hischaracter, a Kandiyohi County judge set bail at $50,000 for 21-year-old PaulWickenhauser, and it was posted after his first court hearing.

On Friday night, the head-on crash on Highway 12 just east of Willmar killed 68-year-old Marta Stoffers, her daughter-in-law Michelle Hoffman, and Hoffman's daughter, 8-year-old Julia.

Wickenhauser shuffled into the courtroom on Tuesday, which was packed with members of his family and relatives of the victims. He was wearing a blue jumpsuit as several deputies escorted him in, and he spoke just 15 words to Judge Randall Slieter as the charges were read to him.

Prosecutors have leveled four counts of criminal vehicular homicide or operation, all felonies, and one count of having an open container in his vehicle at the time of the crash.

According to the criminal complaint, Wickenhauser crossed the center line with his pickup truck and an approaching van swerved to avoid him; however, Wickenhauser corrected his steering at the last second and the two vehicles collided.

Many tears were shed in the courtroom gallery on Tuesday -- especially from Wickenhauser's family, who tried to reach out to the victims through their attorney.

"I know they wanted to give the family a card, and we were able to do that through the prosecution because, in cases like this, there is a no-contact order between my client," Lynne Torgerson, Wickenhauser's attorney, told FOX 9 News. "We cleared that through the judge, and I think there is just sadness all the way around."

That gesture didn't stop Kandiyohi County Attorney Jennifer Fischer from asking the judge to make a strong statement about driving drunk.

"Alcohol use and driving don't mix," she said. "We all need to be diligent in our driving attention -- to the road and details as we're driving."

Wickenhauser left the courtroom in a Sheriff's van and was taken back to jail, where his family posted the bail. As part of his release, he must take part in the state's electronic alcohol monitoring program. That means he needs to constantly be near a landline phone where he can blow into an alcohol-detecting device three times a day.

On the night of the crash, Wickenhauser admitted to investigators he had alcohol in the cab of his pickup truck at the time of the crash, and a broken bottle was found along with beer and another bottle. He blew a .07 at the scene. A more accurate blood sample was taken at the hospital on Friday night, and it has since been turned over to the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension. Prosecutors hope to learn the results later this week.

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